daniel cohen reviews the latest comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg …
Plot: When a burn-out pizza delivery man (Jesse Eisenberg) goes to deliver a pizza to an abandoned junkyard, two masked men strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank. Otherwise, they will detonate the bomb themselves.
The summer of good comedies (last week’s Change-Up aside) continues, with maybe my favorite one yet. This is one hell of a fun ride. While 30 Minutes Or Less isn’t gut busting hysterical, it’s the type of comedy I usually gravitate towards: dialogue-driven jokes, and actors who have great chemistry.
Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari are perfect for each other as disgruntled best friends Nick and Chet. At first, it’s a little hard to get out of the Jesse Eisenberg is just Jesse Eisenberg factor, especially with the first scene. That voice is just too distinctive. But as the film goes on, he fleshes out an original character.
But as you can tell from the trailers, it’s Ansari who steals the show. He’s hysterical. Pitch-perfect delivery, and you can tell the script was tailor-made for him. I fear he’ll turn into another Ken Jeong, Zack Galifianakis or Danny McBride, though: a one-trick pony that will be over exposed and forced down our throats. But nevertheless, I’ll just enjoy the present and appreciate Ansari’s really funny performance.
Speaking of Danny McBride, he’s in this movie, too. He and Nick Swardson play the other best friends, and the two guys who strap the bomb to Nick. Danny McBride turns in the usual Danny McBride performance. He says ‘cock’ a lot, and has that same Kenny Powers delivery he always does. Although maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the last couple Danny McBride movies or been watching Eastbound And Down, because I did enjoy him quite a bit in this. I guess the Danny McBride sabbatical I took worked out for the best.
He works well with Swardson, who’s also very funny. The movie pretty much switches back and forth between the McBride/Swardson and Eisenberg/Ansari combos. I much preferred the Eisenberg/Ansari scenes, and actually think there should have been more of them. We spend a little too much time with McBride and Swardson.
Aside from the performances, what really works for this film is that the tone stays consistent. I always complain about comedies shifting genres halfway through, and this had the potential to do that. These characters get involved in some serious and scary shit, and it could have easily morphed into a more serious chase or action movie. But they keep the whacky cartoonish vibe to the very end. And I really appreciated that. Yeah, cars are turning over and exploding, people are getting shot, girlfriends are being kidnapped, but it’s still a comedy.
Unfortunately, there are some inconsistencies. When Nick first gets the bomb strapped to him, he’s scared out of his mind and whining non-stop. But pretty quickly, he starts embracing it and turns into a fearless badass who even bitches out his kidnappers. This character shift happens a little too quickly.
And there are even inconsistent individual scenes where the comedy doesn’t mix well with Eisenberg’s performance. Nick and Chet are back at their apartment as Chet looks online for how to remove the bomb. He’s spouting out a bunch of funny lines, but Eisenberg plays it way too terrified and nervous, so these funny lines become hard to laugh at.
In the end, these are just minor complaints. I had a great time with 30 Minutes Or Less. While the jokes slow up a bit in the third act, its consistent chuckles all the way through, despite one truly terrible Facebook/Jesse Eisenberg line. The film also makes great use of the song ‘The Heat Is On,’ which is hard to do, because it’s such a cliché. But in the context of the movie, you’ll see why it works. I would recommend this film based solely on Aziz Ansari’s performance, but the rest of it holds up just fine.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)